Saturday, July 2, 2022

Ethiopian Sacred Forests


James Godfrey-Faussett:

"100 years ago Ethiopia was blanketed by 45% forest and now that figure is down to just 5%. Part of the surviving remnants are over 1000 ‘sacred forests’ found protecting Ethiopia’s orthodox churches, that act as living stands of biodiversity amongst the brown overgrazed farmlands.

These small clusters of ancient trees, each about 2km away from the next, ensure that the local people are never far from the forests that are so deeply rooted in their social and spiritual lives.They are used as community centres, meeting places and schools and provide the only shade for miles. 

Each dot of green stands out on the landscape dramatically because they are some of the only trees left in a country that’s experienced widespread deforestation. Some of the sacred forests are more than 1,000 years old and these precious trees have thankfully been spared thanks to conservation as a by-product of religious stewardship. 

The forests are thought of as particularly sacred because each houses a tabot in the centre of the church, which is thought to be a replica of the original Ark of the Covenant. The trees are seen as ‘clothing’ for the church, part of the church itself, which is why just a small ring of trees – those closest to the church – has been protected, creating tiny forests with fields pushing right up to the edges.

Areas like these sacred forests are immensely valuable from an ecological point of view and should continue to be protected at all costs.

They contain precious genetic purity and diversity and should be seen as living nurseries that could hopefully some day be used as a basis to reforest the surrounding lands.."

From here:

Saturday, November 13, 2021


When I was a child, every monsoon season, I spent a lot of time rescuing small insects drowning in pools of rain water in the hilly green area where we lived. I walked around after the rain, looking out for them. And for those that could not be reached with twigs, I made small paper boats and pushed them in their direction. When they clambered on to the boat, I would breath again. 

I can relate to this poem. :) 

after Nikki Giovanni

She asks me to kill the spider.
Instead, I get the most peaceful weapons I can find.

I take a cup and a napkin.
I catch the spider, put it outside
and allow it to walk away.

If I am ever caught in the wrong place
at the wrong time, just being alive
and not bothering anyone,

I hope I am greeted
with the same kind
of mercy. 

Rudy Francisco

Rudy K. Francisco is an American Spoken Word poet and author of Caribbean origin. 

Saturday, October 30, 2021

A Conscious Return to Simplicity

"Speaking as a Chinese, I do not think any civilization can be called complete until it has progressed from sophistication to unsophistication, and made a conscious return to simplicity of thinking and living, and I call no man wise until he has made the progress from the wisdom of knowledge to the wisdom of foolishness, and become a laughing philosopher, feeling first life's tragedy and then life's comedy. 

For we must weep before we can laugh. Out of sadness comes the awakening and out of awakening comes the laughter of the philosopher, with kindliness and tolerance to boot."

'The Importance of Living'​​
Lin Yutang


"..The greater the imaginative power of a man, the more perpetually he is dissatisfied. That is why an imaginative child is always a more difficult child; he is more often sad and morose like a monkey, than happy and contented like a cow. Also divorce must necessarily be more common among the idealists and the more imaginative people than among the unimaginative. The vision of an ideal life companion has an irresistible force which the less imaginative and less idealistic never feel. On the whole, humanity is as much led astray as led upwards by this capacity for idealism, but human progress without this imaginative gift is itself unthinkable.

...Some dream a little more than the others, as there is a child in every family who dreams more and perhaps one who dreams less. And I must confess a secret partiality for the one who dreams. Generally he is the sadder one, but no matter; he is also capable of greater joys and thrills and heights of ecstasy. For I think we are constituted like a receiving set for ideas, as radio sets are equipped for receiving music from the air. Some sets with finer response pick up the finer short waves which are lost to the other sets, and why, of course, that finer, more distant music is all the more precious if only because it is less easily perceivable."

'The Importance of Living'
Lin Yutang

Saturday, June 26, 2021


Anne Lamott wrote this in June 2018, but so relevant to the present!

"The world can feel like an alcoholic father sitting in the living room in his vile underwear, tranced out or abusive; and the world can feel like your favorite auntie who thinks you are just great, still likes to hike, always brings trail mix, and knows her wildflowers. 

These are excruciating times, and this is the kingdom. It’s two, two, two mints in one. 

So yeah, some of us are a little tense. But we are not flattened. Nor do we look away from the suffering of others. And no matter how bad things look and how long change is taking, we don’t give up on goodness. Here is proof: we still take care of each other in ways that are profound, loving and sacrificial, by the bedside of our most beloved, and in the streets. We show up: the secret of life. 

We gather in cities to rise up, and at local parks for live music in the sun, where we and our cranky neighbor end up doing the old tribal hippie two-step in the same shaft of light. We are still laughing—some of us perhaps a bit maniacally—and people are creating the greatest, most live-giving routines and cartoons and responses. 

This is what saved me during the Cheney years. It was chemo. So, great laughter, community, joyous and/or sacrificial love. We can work with this! It is more than enough.

 Here’s the one fly in the ointment: we have to do this in dim lighting, what with a political fever dream, and our own failing memories and overwhelm. 

Life is always like E.L. Doctorow’s great line about writing, that it is like driving at night with the headlights on—you can only see a little ways in front of you, but you can make the whole journey that way. 

You still have to buckle up, no matter how slowly the car is moving. Put on the radio and sing along, loudly and off key. You just have to trust that, as John Lennon said, “Everything will be okay. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.” 

I heard a story last week from a sober friend that almost completely captures my understand of goodness and life, a story that has been medicine for my worried, worried soul: Caroline stopped drinking 30 years ago, at the age of 40, with zero interest or belief in any kind of higher power to whom she might be able to turn when cravings overcame her. 

But after a year of white-knuckle sobriety, contemptuous of a higher power, hanging on through will power, she one day heard and then found a frog in her shower. She lifted it and gently carried it in her cupped hands through the house. She could feel and, of course, imagine its terror. She took it out to the garden, where there was a moist patch of earth over near the blackberries, and set it down. It sat stock still for a bit, and then hopped away into the bushes. She said, “My name is Caroline. I’m that frog.”

 I am, too, and I am also a big helper. When I have felt most isolated and lost, I have always ended up being carried back to the garden in people’s good hands, to where I need to be, afraid and not breathing. for much of the way. And I have helped carry scared people, the best I could. You have, too. 

Isn’t that what grace is, when some force of kindness, against all odds, with unknown hands, brings us from fear and hard tiles to a moist patch earth, and sets us down? If I were God’s west coast representative, I would speed up the process a bit, and hand out klieg lights but I can’t. 

All I can do is to try and help you get back to where there is moist soil and fresh air, and let you help me. And those happen to be the two things I most want in life."

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Predicting the Rain

 Amazing facts shared by my farmer friend Madhu Reddy, from an article in Down to Earth

"The Baiga are an ethnic group found in central India primarily in the state of Madhya Pradesh, and in smaller numbers in the surrounding states of Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand. The name Baiga means "sorcerer- medicine man".

Baiga Weather Science

"Baiga tribals have quite a well-developed system for rainfall prediction, according to which they alter the timing and composition of their crops. In bewar cultivation, sowing has to be done just before the first gentle showers of early monsoon. This makes accurate prediction of these first showers crucial. 

Baigas in Dindori district do it with the help of a local tuber known as baichandi kanda. “We plant it in our badi (vegetable garden) in summer, and when it sends its first shoots up through the ground, we know that rains will be here in a week or 10 days,” says elderly Nankibai Dhondia of village Garjanbeeja. “That is the signal for us to start burning the undergrowth to prepare for sowing.”

Another signal for the coming monsoon is the peepul tree. “When the tree has shed all its old leaves and the process of sprouting new leaves is complete, we know that rains are about two-three weeks away,” says Nankibai. These two nature signals taken together usually give a sufficiently accurate estimate, says she.

The proportion of different millets to be sown in the bewar is decided through weather prediction too. “In late summer,” says Taini Sarjamia of Bhalu Khodra village in Mandla district of Madhya Pradesh, “A tiny insect called ghunghuti appears in droves in the open spaces. When there are too many of those, they get in our eyes. That is when we know that it will be a heavy rainfall year, and plant more kutki.”

Do you have similar stories? Please do share in the comments. I find this fascinating!

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Walking Ahead

Am I walking a little ahead of you 
so that no snake will bite
your sandalled foot? 

John Berger
Page 44, 'And our Faces, My Heart, Brief as Photos', 

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

You swell into survival

Over And Over Tune
You could grow into it,
that sense of living like a dog,
loyal to being on your own in the fur of your skin,
able to exist only for the sake of existing.
Nothing inside your head lasting long enough for you to hold onto,
you watch your own thoughts leap across your own synapses and disappear --
small boats in a wind,
fliers in all that blue,
the swish of an arm backed with feathers,
a dress talking in a corner,
and then poof,
your mind clean as a dog's,
your body big as the world,
important with accident --
blood or a limp, fur and paws.
You swell into survival,
you take up the whole day,
you're all there is,
everything else is
not you, is every passing glint, is
shadows brought to you by wind,
passing into a bird's cheep, replaced by a
rabbit skittering across a yard,
a void you yourself fall into.
You could make this beautiful,
but you don't need to,
living is this fleshy side of the bone,
going on is this medicinal smell of the sun --
no dog ever tires of seeing his life
keep showing up at the back door
even as a rotting bone with a bad smell;
feet tottering, he dreams of it,
wakes and licks no matter what.

Ioanna Carlsen
(Poetry, March 2001)

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Joy is a function of Focus

Choose joy. Choose it like a child chooses the shoe to put on the right foot, the crayon to paint a sky. 

Choose it at first consciously, effortfully, pressing against the weight of a world heavy with reasons for sorrow, restless with need for action. Feel the sorrow, take the action, but keep pressing the weight of joy against it all, until it becomes mindless, automated, like gravity pulling the stream down its course; until it becomes an inner law of nature. 

If Viktor Frankl can exclaim “yes to life, in spite of everything!” — and what an everything he lived through — then so can any one of us amid the rubble of our plans, so trifling by comparison. 

Joy is not a function of a life free of friction and frustration, but a function of focus — an inner elevation by the fulcrum of choice. 

So often, it is a matter of attending to what Hermann Hesse called, as the world was about to come unworlded by its first global war, “the little joys”; so often, those are the slender threads of which we weave the lifeline that saves us.

Delight in the age-salted man on the street corner waiting for the light to change, his age-salted dog beside him, each inclined toward the other with the angular subtlety of absolute devotion.

Delight in the little girl zooming past you on her little bicycle, this fierce emissary of the future, rainbow tassels waving from her handlebars and a hundred beaded braids spilling from her golden helmet.

Delight in the snail taking an afternoon to traverse the abyssal crack in the sidewalk for the sake of pasturing on a single blade of grass.

Delight in the tiny new leaf, so shy and so shamelessly lush, unfurling from the crooked stem of the parched geranium.

I think often of this verse from Jane Hirshfield’s splendid poem 

“The Weighing”

So few grains of happiness
measured against all the dark
and still the scales balance.

Yes, except we furnish both the grains and the scales. I alone can weigh the blue of my sky, you of yours.

From here thanks to Maria Popova

Thursday, September 17, 2020

I’m not saying we shouldn’t be angry

I’m not saying we shouldn’t be angry.
Anger seems reasonable. But perhaps
we will do what I’ve heard the Inuit do—
spend the emotion on walking, walk a line
until all the anger has left our bodies.

The moment the Inuit notice the anger is gone,
replaced, perhaps, by sadness or fear,
compassion or just a quietness,
they mark that spot with an object
to show the extent of their anger.

And perhaps, if we’re lucky, when we walk
this way, it will be a long enough walk
that we arrive at each other’s doors,
object in hand, and when the object

leaves our grip, we’ll be able to use our hands
to greet each other, touch each other’s faces,
point to the horizon to all the other places
we might choose to walk now together.

Rosemerry Trommer

Sunday, August 9, 2020

The best is not destroyed, although forever threatened

 The Good

The good are vulnerable
As any bird in flight,

They do not think of safety,
Are blind to possible extinction
And when most vulnerable
Are most themselves.

The good are real as the sun,
Are best perceived through clouds
Of casual corruption
That cannot kill the luminous sufficiency
That shines on city, sea and wilderness,

Fastidiously revealing
One man to another,
Who yet will not accept
Responsibilities of light.

The good incline to praise,
To have the knack of seeing that
The best is not destroyed
Although forever threatened.

The good go naked in all weathers,
And by their nakedness rebuke
The small protective sanities
That hide men from themselves.

The good are difficult to see
Though open, rare, destructible;
Always, they retain a kind of youth,
The vulnerable grace
Of any bird in flight,

Content to be itself,
Accomplished master and potential victim,
Accepting what the earth or sky intends.

I think that I know one or two
Among my friends.

Brendan Kennelly

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

You must be the thing you see

After the red Gulmohars of summer, the pink/purple/violet Bauhinias are here, announcing August.

To Look at Any Thing

To look at any thing,
If you would know that thing,
You must look at it long:

To look at this green and say,
"I have seen spring in these
Woods," will not do - you must
Be the thing you see:

You must be the dark snakes of
Stems and ferny plumes of leaves,
You must enter in
To the small silences between
The leaves,

You must take your time
And touch the very peace
They issue from.

John Moffitt

Monday, June 8, 2020

I must be the sun


On a gray day, when the sun
has been abducted, and it’s chill
end-of-the-world weather,
I must be the sun.

I must be the one
to encourage the young
sidetracked physicist
working his father’s cash register
to come up with a law of nature
that says brain waves can change
the dismal sky.  I must be the one

to remind the ginger plant
not to rest on the reputation
of its pungent roots, but to unveil
those buttery tendrils from the other world.

When the sky is an iron lid
I must be the one to simmer
in the piquant juices of possibility,
though the ingredients are unknown
and the day begins with a yawn.

I must issue forth a warmth
without discrimination, and any guarantee
it will come back to me.

On a dark day I must be willing
to keep my disposition light,
I have to be at the very least
one stray intact ray
of local energy, one small
but critical fraction
of illumination.  Even on a day

that doesn’t look gray
but still lacks comfort or sense,
I have to be the sun,
I have to shine as if
sorry life itself depended on it.

I have to make all the difference.

Thomas Centolella

Views from along the Middle Way (yet to read)

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

But some bonuses, like morning


It could happen any time, tornado,
earthquake, Armageddon. It could happen.
Or sunshine, love, salvation.

It could, you know. That's why we wake
and look out -- no guarantees
in this life.

But some bonuses, like morning,
like right now, like noon,
like evening.

William Stafford, 'The Way It Is'

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Every town our home town

Every town our home town
Kaniyan Poongunranar [Sangam Period, 3rd century BC to 4th century AD]

​​"Every town our home town
every man, a kinsman
Good and evil do not come from others
Pain and relief of pain come of themselves

Dying is nothing new
We do not rejoice that life is sweet
nor in anger​​
call it bitter

Our lives, however dear,
follow their own course,
rafts drifting
in the rapids of a great river
sounding and dashing over rocks
after a downpour
from skies slashed by lightnings -

We know this from the vision
of men who see,
We are not amazed by the great
and we do not scorn the little."

Translated by A K Ramanujan: "Poems of Love and War: From the Eight
Anthologies and the Ten Long Poems of Classical Tamil"

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